State task force works with churches to place growing number of kids
12 comments by Lindsey Erdody– Aug. 14, 2012 10:16 PM The Republic | azcentral.com
Arizona’s faith-based community is increasingly becoming a key component in the statewide effort to find enough foster and adoptive families to care for the growing number of children in need.
In a collaborative effort between the ArizonaSERVES Task Force and faith-based foster and adoption agencies, more church members are becoming certified to foster or adopt.
During an informational meeting in April, the line of people interested in helping went out the door and wrapped along the sidewalk at Gilbert’s Mission Community Church. More than 300 families came to learn how they could help.
< A HREF=”http://gannett.gcion.com/adlink/5111/328990/0/170/AdId=3251283;BnId=1;itime=42253397;nodecode=yes;link=http://ad.doubleclick.net/jump/N3220.2664.AZCENTRAL.COM/B6867515.9;sz=300×250;pc=%5BTPAS_ID%5D;ord=42253397?”>< IMG SRC=”http://ad.doubleclick.net/ad/N3220.2664.AZCENTRAL.COM/B6867515.9;sz=300×250;pc=%5BTPAS_ID%5D;ord=42253397?” BORDER=0 WIDTH=300 HEIGHT=250 ALT=”Advertisement”></A><a target=”_blank” href=”http://ad.doubleclick.net/click%3Bh%3Dv8/3cd2/7/74/%2a/a%3B261061650%3B0-0%3B0%3B84829817%3B4307-300/250%3B49786106/49778454/1%3B%3B%7Eokv%3D%3Bpc%3D%5BTPAS_ID%5D%3B%3B%7Esscs%3D%3fhttp%3A//gannett.gcion.com/adlink%2F5111%2F328990%2F0%2F170%2FAdId%3D3251283%3BBnId%3D1%3Bitime%3D42253397%3Blink%3Dhttp://ww2.cox.com/business/arizona/shop/new-offer.cox?sc_id=azmv_ban_z_bizb_bannerC3″><img src=”http://s0.2mdn.net/3529633/AZ_Phoenix_300x250.jpg” width=”300″ height=”250″ border=”0″ alt=”Advertisement” galleryimg=”no”></a>”Everyone was pretty much blown away by how many people showed up,” said Tiffany Deutsch, director of local justice ministries for the church.
Gov. Jan Brewer created the ArizonaSERVES Task Force in 2010 to engage the faith community in the efforts to improve the foster-care system, among other things. Since then, faith-based agencies have increased their family foster-home applications from 18 percent to 21 percent of the total number of applications to the Arizona Department of Economic Security.
Chuck Fitzgerald, manager of the DES’ Office of Faith and Community, said the task force targeted the faith community because faith leaders in the community wanted to help but didn’t know how.
“The faith community believes they’re the only ones that can fix this, and they may be right,” Fitzgerald said. “With that kind of confidence from that side and our willingness and confidence on this side, I think it will work.”
In Arizona, there are more than 13,000 foster kids in the child-care system. According to the DES, there are about 3,500 licensed foster homes with nearly 8,600 beds.
Stephen Browning, Christian Family Care statewide director for foster-care services, said when he considers the number of churches in the area, there should be plenty of homes for these children.
“When we do the math, we believe there should be no child waiting,” Browning said.
No Child Waiting, a coalition of non-profits and evangelical churches, works with about 30 churches. The organization was involved with the event at Mission Community Church, which resulted in 20 families beginning the certification process.
“Our goal is to get the word out and network with as many churches as possible in the state,” No Child Waiting chairman Steve Hubler said. “What excites me about this is the people that I’m interacting with that are getting involved with this are not doing it as a duty.”
Andrea Stuart, statewide director for Arms of Love Foster Care with Arizona Baptist Children’s Services, said she has seen results since Brewer’s task force was created.
“That kind of raised awareness among churches and pastors,” she said. “They’re realizing that there are children that need their help in their own backyard.”
Stuart said that a year ago, the agency had about 85 foster families. It now has 100.
Mark Upton, president of Christian Family Care, said the number of churches his organization works with has doubled in the past year to include about 30 that are highly involved. In 2011, Christian Family Care was the largest faith-based agency providing new foster-family applications, with 62 of the 253 church-based applications.
The various faith-based groups are asking church members to get involved at any level they can. Upton said they are recruiting families to foster, adopt, mentor, provide respite care, tutor or anything else to support foster families.
Other ways to help include donating gifts, cooking and providing rides.
“Everyone in the church can be a part of helping meet the needs to these children,” Browning said.
For more information, visit www.azdes.gov/arizonaserveshome.aspx.